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Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach

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Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity's ancestral habitat. She's spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

233 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 13, 2018

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About the author

Kelly Robson

61 books254 followers
Like you, I'm a passionate reader. I spent most of my teenage years either hanging out at the drugstore waiting for new issues of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, or when I was in the city, lurking in the SF and Fantasy section of the bookstore. This was pre-Internet and since there were no bookstores in my town and the library was pretty bare, good books -- the kind that made my heart sing -- were precious treasures.

To this day, nothing is more important to me than reading, nothing is more delicious than a great novel, and few people are as important as my favorite writers.

My writing life has been pretty diverse. I've edited science books, and from 2008 to 2012 I had the great good luck to write a monthly wine column for Chatelaine, the largest women's magazine in Canada.

I've published short fiction at Tor.com, Asimov's Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, and a number of anthologies. Several of my stories have been chosen for "year's best" anthologies, and in the past two years I've been a finalist for several high-profile awards.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 543 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
April 10, 2019
4+ stars. I have such a soft spot for time travel tales, and this one is so intelligently written! Full review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach (2018), one of several exceptional novellas nominated for the 2018 Nebula award, combines some intelligent and subtle world-building in the aftermath of worldwide disasters, the future version of project financing and lobbying (with lamentable similarities to our current world), and time travel to ancient Mesopotamia as research for an environmental remediation project.

In the 23rd century, humanity is beginning to rebuild on the surface of the Earth after living underground for many years in “hives and hells.” Life on the surface is limited to specific habitats, and the need for expensive ecological restoration projects to make the habitats livable has led to funding consortiums with time-consuming (and headache-inducing) formal proposal requirements. In the excitement surrounding the discovery of time travel a decade or so ago, nearly all the funding shifted away from ecological restoration to time travel projects. Now Minh, a cynical 83-year-old ecologist with six prosthetic tentacle-like legs, has received a request for proposal (RFP) that combines both time travel and ecological restoration: going back to 2024 BCE Mesopotamia to study the drainage of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as a guide to future river remediation projects.

Minh is determined to win the project (the follow-on work could be extremely lucrative). She puts together a small team of three, roping in her colleague Hamid, a biologist who’s obsessed with horses, and reluctantly accepting her eager young administrative assistant Kiki as the third team member. Fabian, an abrasive “tactical historian” from TERN, the research group that discovered time travel, is their guide to the past.

The first half of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach focuses on the intricacies and subterfuges involved in grant-writing and lobbying to win the project, which may strike you as either dry and boring or reasonably interesting and richly ironic. Personally I found it more intriguing than tedious, but whether you find it appealing may depend on your literary tastes. There’s enough character-building and world-building to keep this section from getting monotonous, though. We get glimpses of the past disasters, including the plagues that affected Minh’s generation. There are constant references to “plague babies” like Minh and Hamid, who are physically smaller and frailer, as opposed to the younger generation of “fat babies” like Kiki, who are healthier and have much larger bodies (like humans in our day). Technology has taken the tenet of personal autonomy to entirely new levels, with people managing their own physical health and bodies in unexpected and sometimes even alarming ways.

The second half of the novella deals with the team’s time travel adventures in the ancient past in a vessel they name the Lucky Peach, after Minh’s peach orchard hobby. This trip is fascinating and imaginative, with some unexpected twists. The trip ― not surprisingly for the reader but certainly for the team ― turns out to be far more complicated and dangerous than our researchers expected. (The short flash-forward blurbs at the beginning of each chapter, from the point of view of the ancient Mesopotamian king Shulgi, are a broad hint that things are going to go very wrong for our time-traveling team.)

Time travel in this universe is not thought to affect the future; TERN claims that when people travel to the past, a “separate timeline is spun off from ours, and when the time travelers leave, the timeline collapses.” But that’s difficult to for Minh to swallow when people in the past suffer because of the team’s actions. The ancient Mesopotamians take a dim view of the “stars” watching them from the sky, not to mention their monstrous-looking (to them) but powerful visitors. Are they gods or monsters? Or do they have aspects of both?

I found the ending of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach startlingly abrupt, though I could make the case that it’s actually a befitting conclusion. Still, I was relieved to find out that Kelly Robson is currently writing a sequel, Time, Trouble and the Lucky Peach. It’ll be great fun to see what happens next with these characters.

I received a free copy of this novella from the publisher for review. Thank you!!
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,184 followers
August 7, 2018
A very interesting novella about time-travel and ecology! I got this one on sale for Kindle as a vacation read, and I had no idea what I was getting into.

Earth has suffered massive ecological disasters and humans are slowly re-building the ecosystems necessary for the planet’s survival. An older generation of humans, the “plague babies” grew up during the worse of the cataclysms, and some, like our protagonist, Minh, chose to get artificial limbs installed in order to navigate their complicated environment more effectively. The younger generation, known as “fat babies” because they are healthy, have always known the world as it is, and while they try to help, their perspective is completely different. Minh is given a contract to use time-travelling technology to go observe the Tiger and Euphrates rivers in ancient Mesopotamia, and to use what can be learned from that virtually untouched environment to fix the river systems in her time period’s North America. Now who could resist an offer like that? But as it must, things don’t go quite as planned…

The pacing is good, with an interweaving of Minh’s timeline narration and quick glimpses of the ancient world she is about to visit, and the world-building quite clever, revealing just enough to keep the reader engaged without drowning the pace with info-dumping. This is far from my first post-apocalyptic sci-fi story and yet I have never encountered a world quite like this one, and I wanted more! The open ending, however, is both interesting (because it opens so many possibilities) and frustrating because no sequel is planned! Bummer…

3 and a half stars.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
July 19, 2018
Ecological conservators get a job to do a survey of the ancient world. In their present, the world is in cataclysm, capitalism has choked off progress, time travel has halted the future, and "privacy" is measured in how many walls you get to say you own rather than any sort of solitude in your own mind. In the world they're exploring, their coming is signaled by three new stars in the sky.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

The really cool stuff:

-The ancient world. I loooved the little openers about the civilization that came before.

-The skin on the new world. People with octopus legs or bio-engineered goat legs! Biom trackers, habs, hives, and hells! Fakes/clones to handle the drudgery!

-The inclusivity. Ace people! Gay people! People of color! Aside from the one weird outting of Kiki, all of it was really relaxed, too. No performative gayness, no weirdness about age or race.

-The idea for how time travel worked. I'm not sure I got all of it, but it seemed like an interesting theory.

Things that we just pretend aren't important:

-Plot. Someone tell me what the elevator pitch is for this story. What are they doing? Why? What's the pay out?

-Endings. Oh hi, cut out midscene. How ya doin'?

-Anything beyond the skin. So, the cool stuff looked cool, but what did it do? You pick up all this stuff about plagues and the need for humanity to survive, but what happened?

-Character motivations. I tried to keep up with how people could justify their actions, and I kept coming back to "because the author needed them to do this for there to be a story." Given all the cool effing stuff going on, that's a damn shame. This author is clearly very imaginative. I think, especially for a novella, the storyboarding could have been tighter.

It was short, it had cool visuals, and I'm a sucker for something that feels like myth. I just wish we'd spent a lot more time on that stuff and waaaay less time on the proposal process, worrying about billable hours, and maybe had someone explain to me why they were going through all this hassle to begin with. Also a proper ending.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
April 2, 2018
3.5 stars rounded up

A very interesting novella. At the outset I felt like the worldbuilding was a bit of a combination of too much detail about some things and not enough about others. The characters, however, were quite wonderful right from the start.

About the halfway point things smoothed out for me, and once the time travel happened I loved the entire portion spent in the past. That ending though, what? I want some more please :)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,103 followers
March 5, 2019
So much goodness! There has been a sprinkling of pretty okay novellas coming out during 2018 but none have gone so far as to wow me beyond a few lovely characters or a clever premise or two.

Until now.

Now we have a wonderful premise full of fantastic worldbuilding and a dedication to all the cool little details that make a rich futuristic world. Add post-plague creative prosthetics, ecological disasters, time travel with the banks calling the shots, a global giving-up on the future for a stake in correcting the past...

... and the making of gods and monsters in Ur. :)

I admit, this novella pushed all my buttons.

I love the time period, the exploration of turning SF into mythology, and the great colorful details, and characters I could get behind. Did I mention I love stories that deal with Mesopotamia? *giddy dance*

Would I have liked a full novel continuing on where this ended? Hell, yeah. I even consider myself a fanboy. This level of quality needs all the applause. :)

I think I'm going to nom this for Hugo. Not doing it because it's ALSO nommed for Nebula. I just love it. :)
Profile Image for Beige .
268 reviews90 followers
February 12, 2020
I really loved the worlds within this scifi: far future, post climate catastrophe earth and the time travel back to Mesopotamia. I liked learning through the eyes of a scientist/project manager. However, I'm super spoiler adverse and one of the povs is very spoilery. It's an interesting narrative technique, but I personally found it distracting, so one less star for that. I liked the ending but I do hope the author continues this as a series.

Read for the Worlds Beyond the Margins 2019 challenge

Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
April 8, 2018
3.5 stars. Great mix of elements in a future post-environmental destruction, with habitats, different generations of humans (that’s not a good description of the differences based on those born during plague years and those born much more healthy afterwards), projects to rebuild portions of the environment, and time travel. And a fabulous book cover. And an older female protagonist. And, a story that begins in a future Canada!
This is a story with a lot of interesting elements though I wouldn’t have minded a longer length so I could better understand main protagonist Minh. I liked the idea of environmental remediation projects and the expertise required for these endeavours, and the dance between the demands of these projects and corporate short-term thinking.
There’s enough in this novella that I found myself wishing that the story elements could have been explored in a longer format, and whoa! That ending! There better be more tales in this universe.
Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 36 books446 followers
March 15, 2018
Fascinating, imaginatively dense and highly compelling sci-fi novella about time-travelling ecological preservation projects? For sure!

Since Robson is evidently a devourer of sci-fi, this reads like a story for sci-fi devourers. The details come thick and fast at the beginning in simple enough language--habitats are "habs", "bioms" monitor health, "whispering" is like telepathy (right?), there are "bots" helping out around the peach orchard, the protagonist has six legs--to name a few! Yet the writing style is such that it presents these ideas to readers who are already very familiar with sci-fi concepts. If a detail of the world or its history doesn't explicitly relate to the story being told, it's still left in but not explained as in-depth--risking confusion for the sake of denser worldbuilding without sacrificing pace. A daring strategy--worked for me. I guess that's why they say sci-fi is the literature of ideas, and there are a multitude within.

Also, the story naturally leaves scope in and around its timeline for future works, which I've gleaned is the author's plan. Like other readers, I'm holding off speaking more about the plot because I'm not sure I understood it completely (though I re-read the opening chapter again and understood it much better.) Anyway, that's fine: the best books are worth re-reading. And the best authors pursue their concepts with such strong authorial voices that it's like, "Okay, you're gonna have to slow down and learn how to read me, because this hasn't been done before." And Robson is an original to look out for!
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,625 followers
November 23, 2018
SFF is very fond of plunging readers into a world without explanation and making you work out what's going on, and generally this is preferable to the classic opening scene of people explaining their history and situation to each other. ("As you know, your father, the king...") That said, I found this one too densely packed with unfamiliar concepts, words etc. I struggled to work out what was going on, and there wasn't a driving action plotline to carry me through until I had a handle on things.

Good writing and a lot of great ideas, and I *really* liked the way each chapter starts with an apparently incomprehensible snippet of someone else's story that starts to make sense as the timelines converge. Also effortless diversity.

It didn't work for me in the end because there were an awful lot of concepts for the amount of story, and I am a heavily story-driven reader. I'd have liked more space to breathe, and a more engaging/purposeful/motivated viewpoint character: I didn't start to engage with the MC until very late on in the book. But I'm not a hard SF reader, so YMMV.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
April 9, 2018
A novella that starts in the future with a small cast of environmental remediation specialists working in Calgary, Canada after a global ecological apocalypse, and then heads into the distant past for a time travel mission to ancient Mesopotamia.

Our main character is Minh, pictured in the amazing cover art, is a "plague baby", one of a generation of humans born into incredible hardship. In Minh's case she has no lower limbs and uses an octopus-like prosthesis. Her partner is another plague baby and a "fat baby" (a healthy human). When Minh's team is approached to bid for a research trip to the cradle of human civilization she can't resist.

Wonderful characters and a brilliantly realized world make this novella move along well at an endlessly inventive pace. Fair warning though, if there's no book two then that's an incredibly unsatisfying ending. It's not quite a cliff-hanger, but it's a hell of a tease as to what's next.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,253 reviews182 followers
April 19, 2018

Another rather good novella, this time featuring a future where Earth has suffered a devastating ecological disaster and humans are trying to re-built/re-generate the planet. The vision Robson gives us is intriguing, from the technology used to the different ‘classes’ of people.

The two narratives, juxtaposing the far past with the far future into recognisable worlds, work very well together, presenting such different societies, and yet when you come down to it, not that much. That was fascinating, that and having an older woman as the main narrator.

All well and good but we’re just given tantalising morsels when the plate promises so much more! I wonder if this would have worked better as a full novel, especially in light of that ‘end’.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,141 followers
January 23, 2019
A fun romp. The idea of time traveling to the past for environmental remediation purpose is really unique (for me) and I enjoyed each minute of it till the end. The moments when the scientists were prepping for their proposal and pitch were just hilarious since RFPs and bidding are part of my work. Now, the ending could be stretched just a teeny wee bit but otherwise I am loving this cool novella. Might be in my Hugo noms this year, who knows.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,683 reviews347 followers
February 28, 2019
Abandoned at about 1/4 in. To my surprise, since the premise, while farfetched --you read the blurb, right? -- is better than many dystopias. OK, time travel is about as likely as flying by flapping your arms, but it has a long and honorable place in our genre. So, rather than write a review of a book I abandoned early, let me refer you to other 2-star reviews here: the book "takes forever to get going." The story "doesn't start until half way through." "Massive meh ... Color me unimpressed."
Etc, etc. If you want even more reasons not to read this, go on to the one-stars. Basically, WTF?

Oh, well. I cut my losses early these days (sorry, Kelly). I'd read another, but this one falls into the "not very interesting failure" group, I'm afraid. 1.5 stars, for the bit I read. YMMV!

Gary K Wolfe recommends it, at Locus:

"There is much to admire in Kelly Robson’s novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach – her surprising skill at rigorous SF worldbuilding after a career distinguished mostly by clever fantasies like “The Waters of Versailles”, her nuanced characterization, especially of a cranky, middle-aged woman protagonist (with six leg-like tentacle prostheses), her very original deployment of a familiar SF time-travel technique – but the one that struck me very early on, before we even learn much about this post-cataclysmic 23rd century, was a lot more modest: Robson seems to know a good deal about real-world grant writing. This isn’t as trivial as its sounds. Too often, SF writers conveniently overlook the somewhat messy pro­cesses by which science gets funded, but Robson opens with a convincingly bureaucratic RFP, complete with unrealistic deadlines, from a bank affiliated with something called Centers for Ex­cellence in Economic Research and Development (CEERD) and, more immediately relevant to the plot, a division called the “Temporal Economic Research Node (TERN)”. The acronyms alone are terrifying. ..."
Profile Image for Sara Saif.
544 reviews224 followers
March 26, 2018

This is the kind of science-fiction that makes you feel stupid. And confused. And sleepy. Mercifully, it was short.

"Minh drove into project management mode. She wanted to skim through TERN's project protocol information and then focus on further refining her work plan using whatever historical information she could get access to. But the project protocol docs were tedious, with hour upon hour of real-time content. Summarizing and scanning ahead were disabled. Worse, at the end of each doc they were forced to complete tests before moving to the next."

The whole book is like this. And that was one of the bearable ones. Projects and protocols and ecological expertise and sophisticated shit that I don't know anything about and the book didn't help. It drove straight on while I didn't know what 75% of the things meant or how they worked. It took a while to get a lay of the land if I ever did.

What keeps you going is curiosity. Evidently, this wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,119 reviews112 followers
April 8, 2019
This is a SF novella that was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula Awards in 2019.

The year is 2267 and Earth recuperates after the environmental calamities of the previous centuries. Our protagonist, Minh is septuagenarian with six octopus-like legs. She works on projects, which should allow living on the surface once again, specializing in freshwater management. Her projects were all the hype a few decades ago, but then the time travel was discovered, and where have been floods of grants, now a drought. However, she gets a proposal to visit Mesopotamia in 2200 B.C. to get a first hand experience on how freshwater cycle worked. She is assisted by Kiki, a young energetic woman, ‘a fat baby’ in the parlor of the time (Minh is ‘a plague baby’) and Minh’s friend Hamid, crazy about horses and Westerns.

Each chapter starts with one-two paragraphs of ‘now’ in the ancient Mesopotamia, where king Shulgi hunts snake-legged monsters, while the rest of the chapter tell the earlier story from Minh’s perspective.

There are a lot of jokes aimed for academia – all grant proposals business in the future is quite like its modern incarnation. The story has a great start, a vivid world (fakes – expert AI based on your person are a particular high point), but at the end falls short of the goal.

Here are some teasers:

“If we don’t win, how much debt will you have in six months?” Kiki looked away. “Right. So, here’s your first interview question: Kiki, why do you want to time travel?”
Kiki didn’t even think before answering, “Who wouldn’t want to time travel? It’s the ultimate adventure.”
“Zero points.” Hamid turned to Minh. “Why do you want to time travel?”
“The Mesopotamian ecological system is the foundational habitat for the development of modern human societies,” Minh said, falling into standard interview mode. Confident but deferential, completely trustworthy. “In my sixty years as an ecological remediation specialist, this project is unprecedented. It provides a unique opportunity to take the first concrete step in restoring an ecosystem using past-state data observed, monitored, and gathered on-site.”
“Good. You see what Minh did there?”
Kiki shook her head.
“Minh told the client they have the prettiest gonads and she’s the best possible person to bring their project off. Want to try again?”

* * *
Load your interview prompts, Minh whispered.
Over the previous three days, the three of them had crafted thoughtful answers to the standard and expected interview questions, plus a few dozen trick questions concocted by Minh’s partners. They’d trapped the responses and sent the doc to a client-relations consultant who edited the responses complete with tone, intonation, and pauses optimized to achieve maximum effect. They’d even thrown in regional dialect mitigation as a value-add.
Each response was indexed with an adaptive keyword scheme to supply the optimal answer to any question the client could ask. The tactic turned interviews into orchestrated live performances—concocted and completely artificial. Minh hated it, but she couldn’t deny the results. The simple fact was, she won more jobs parroting optimal answers than honestly extemporizing an interview.

Profile Image for Matt Quann.
652 reviews388 followers
January 28, 2020
This novella has garnered a lot of praise, but fell a bit flat for me. The world building is cool and I enjoyed the spin on time travel, but I couldn't get into the characters or their mission. Robson takes an in media res approach, which can work well, but I would have loved some more descriptive or expository passages. The world seems very interesting, but I wish I could have gotten a firmer grip on what was going on and how the world came to be as it was. Ah well, for $1 it's hard to complain!
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,052 reviews215 followers
August 27, 2020
Definitely more of a 3.5.

The author plunges us deep in the middle of this post apocalyptic world and it took me a while to gather my bearings. And while it’ll probably take me a long while to ever get comfortable with all the scientific terminology associated with these kinds of sci-fi books, I was able to get the general idea and emotion behind it all. The dual timeline with the current and the ancient Mesopotamian civilization was a master stroke to make us feel invested in everyone’s lives, the discussion about the ethics of time travel as well as a very short term focused banking economy on the development of the world was fascinating, and the best part was the clash of cultures we could witness - not just between the timelines, but also within the present between the generation who survived the plagues and the younger ones born in the aftermath. That cliffhanger ending though equal parts wonderful and frustrating, because I can’t even guess what happens next.
Profile Image for Kaa.
564 reviews50 followers
April 16, 2019
There is some really cool stuff here, but the world-building didn't match the plot and the story felt incomplete to me. I really enjoyed learning about the world that the author started creating in the first half of the book, and it's clearly one she's spent a lot of time on. However, I also found this world-building frustrating because a lot of it is only minimally relevant to the plot and many things are mentioned in passing but never elaborated on or explained.

I did enjoy the way the book was structured, but the plot that was meant to rest on this structure lacked a strong narrative arc and momentum. And then it just ended, cutting off what could have actually been some of the most interesting parts of the story.
Profile Image for David (Hefesto).
Author 5 books24 followers
November 18, 2021

Estamos destruyendo este planeta. Incluso los negacionistas lo saben, aunque su cobardía o intereses particulares les impidan admitirlo. Llegará un día en el que una generación deberá afrontar directamente las consecuencias de la irresponsabilidad de las anteriores. La desertización será imparable y puede que, en algunas regiones, la superficie terrestre se vuelva inhabitable. Además, los jinetes del apocalipsis nunca cabalgan solos y es muy probable que los cambios geológicos o climáticos vengan acompañados; nuevos virus (o no tan nuevos) entrarán en escena y la humanidad no estará preparada para combatir en todos los frentes.

Imaginad que, en uno de los peores escenarios posibles, la población que no sucumbiese a la catástrofe se viese obligada a refugiarse bajo tierra. Que solo la ciencia y la tecnología pudiese ayudarles a lidiar con las secuelas físicas de las enfermedades. Que prótesis cibernéticas reemplazasen los miembros dañados y sus sistemas endocrinos necesitasen de computadoras para regular los procesos fisiológicos y hormonales. ¿Seguirían sintiéndose humanos?

Cuando llegue el transhumanismo es posible que incluso nuestra apariencia cambie ¿Qué nos impedirá copiar el diseño de animales más perfectos y poderosos? Por tanto, no sería de extrañar que una generación como la que estamos planteando, tan castigada y diferente de todas las anteriores (y posteriores), sintiese cierto rencor (o puede que rivalidad) hacia quienes no fuesen como ellos.

Un futuro así de desolador es posible. Y su deriva, impredecible. Pero si algo tenemos claro es que los poderes económicos y políticos nunca renunciarán a su posición de privilegio. Encontrarían la forma de seguir moviendo los hilos y siendo indispensables incluso en las situaciones más críticas. Lo peor es que la inmensa mayoría de nosotros pensamos que si las grandes corporaciones llegasen a controlar tecnologías capaces de revertir una situación tan extrema o paliar sus efectos, antepondrían sus intereses particulares a los generales ¿Estaremos en un error?

En el año 2267 la Tierra es prácticamente inhabitable. La sociedad se divide entre “bebés de la plaga” y “bebés gordos”. Los primeros sufrieron la catástrofe que los llevó a refugiarse bajo tierra, tuvieron que reemplazar sus miembros dañados por prótesis mecánicas y arrastran secuelas físicas importantes e incurables. Los segundos, nacidos en el nuevo sistema, son más grandes y sanos, aunque no están mejor adaptados al medio. Entre ambas generaciones existe cierta rivalidad o rechazo.
Parte de la humanidad trata de volver, poco a poco, a la superficie. La recuperación de los grandes ríos es fundamental en la mejora del ecosistema, pero todos los proyectos necesitan financiación de los grandes bancos. Estos, ejerciendo un poder casi absoluto, controlan la tecnología que permite los viajes en el tiempo y solo parecen interesados en obtener beneficios enviando turistas al pasado. Nada de lo que se haga siglos atrás, dicen, podría cambiar el presente pues, según afirman los físicos a su servicio, las líneas temporales que visitan colapsan al ser abandonadas.
En este contexto Minh, una “bebé de la plaga” de 83 años cuyas piernas han sido sustituidas por seis apéndices tentaculares, es elegida para liderar una expedición a la Mesopotamia de la Edad del Bronce. El estudio del Tigris y el Éufrates podría ser fundamental para mejorar las condiciones de vida de los suyos.

¿Recordáis la diferencia que hacía Aristóteles entre potencia y acto? Es imposible leer esta novela sin hacerlo. Sin sentir que Dioses, monstruos y el Melocotones de la suerte podría haber sido fabulosa, pero se ha quedado en el simple esbozo de algo más grande. La premisa de la que parte es magnífica. Tanto la sociedad planteada como las numerosas menciones a una pandemia y un cataclismo medioambiental, ejercen una poderosa atracción en el lector. Además, breves pasajes protagonizados por Shulgi (rey de Ur) abren cada capítulo presagiando acción e intrigas palaciegas. Pero eso es todo: Kelly Robson dedica más de la mitad del texto a los “tira y afloja” burocráticos que debe salvar la protagonista para hacerse con el proyecto. Ninguno de los aspectos fundamentales de la historia, ni siquiera la tecnología empleada en los viajes temporales o las causas de “la plaga”, son explicados. Las relaciones entre personajes y la evolución de cada uno de ellos, quedan bien retratadas. Pero esto no explica los premios que la novela ha ganado o de los que ha sido finalista. Y el final es tan abierto que solo puede justificarse si entendemos que estamos ante el prólogo de una saga. Pero, a día de hoy, no parece haber noticias de ninguna continuación.

Siento no poder recomendaros esta obra con el mismo entusiasmo que la mayoría de las que he reseñado. Me duele especialmente por lo mucho que me gusta el trabajo de la editorial Pulpture. ¿Estoy diciendo entonces que no leáis el libro? No. Si se trata del posicionamiento inicial de las piezas en el tablero, el desarrollo puede ser magnífico. Pero si no vais a esperar a ver si se publica una segunda parte, sabed lo que encontraréis. No es, en absoluto, una mala opción si os dejáis atrapar por un apocalipsis como nunca os habíais imaginado. Pero tendréis que contener vuestras ganas de más al llegar a la última página.
Profile Image for daisy.
594 reviews100 followers
March 28, 2018
Review also posted over at my reading blog.
(It's still very new and 'under construction' in terms of the layout/content/links, so keep that in mind!)

Now, I don't have the best track record when it comes to novellas, short stories and short fiction. They inevitably leave me wanting more - and not always in a good way! Having said that: I really enjoyed Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and mostly because it was so unlike anything else I've read this year. It has elements that I'm very familiar with - time-travel and environment conservation for example - but the wrapping, so to speak, and the execution were all very refreshing and unique and I loved it.

It took me a little while to get into it, just because there are kind of two stories being told at once and there's a Lot of information (about both the world-building and the characters themselves) to take in and process - a surprising amount, actually, considering the relatively short length of the novella!

I was, however, as I always tend to be with short fiction, somewhat disappointed by the ending. The story ends rather abruptly and though it's written beautifully and I see what the author was trying to accomplish, I found myself lowering my e-reader on the train and thinking Wait? That's it? What happens ne- What? But what happens next?!

Overall, I'd still highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys scifi, time-travel, conservation, canon asexual characters, and/or having an endearingly grumpy + highly intelligent old woman with octopus-like lower limbs be your protagonist... If any of that sounds interesting, this may be the novella for you!
Profile Image for Mitticus.
1,011 reviews213 followers
April 9, 2019
Reto Popsugar 2019 #40: sugerencia de un reto anterior (de un autor favorito tuyo)

De Kelly Robson solamente conocia "Las Aguas de Versalles", una entretenida fantasia histórica, y esta vez nos trae una historia post-apocaliptica con mensaje ecológico y anticapitalista.

When the plague babies had moved to the surface six decades earlier, in 2205, they’d been determined to prove humanity could escape the hives and hells and live above ground again, in humanity’s ancestral habitat. First, they’d erected bare-bones habs high in the mountains, scraping together skeleton funding for proof-of-concept pilot projects. For the first few ecological remediation projects, the plague babies donated their billable hours, hoping to lure investment and spark population growth.

Pros: Over 87 years old female protagonist, with prosthesis (tentacles) b/c of disease.
Interesting characters.
Time travel in bronce era.

Cons: The story throws you in the middle of jergon without more explanations from the start. In some cases this works , but with technobable you dont know what is going on during a while.
-Your average bad-company-guy.

And you know what's going to happen with that first king name...

Profile Image for Julie.
951 reviews248 followers
July 17, 2019
Read as a Best Novella nominee for the 2019 Hugo Awards. I like the worldbuilding in this one -- a vision of a future with advanced technology but where our planet's been ravaged by climate change, and people have had to retreat underground to survive, but scientists are slowly trying to rehabilitate the surface... until the invention of time travel accidentally ruins climate recovery efforts, because the public are too fixated on touristing the past instead. Our main character is Minh, an aged scientist/ecologist leaping at the chance to time travel for ecological purposes, researching the climate of the past in order to fix the future. The novella is also interspersed with the past civilisation grappling with what these strange stars and portents and creatures from the future mean (are they gods, are they monsters). Minh and Kiki's working relationship/growing friendship is also the heart of the novella, really, but I wound up so (perhaps unjustifiably...) frustrated with some of Kiki's choices by the end that I didn't connect with them quite so well.

I could've done with a clearer picture of some world details, though: like, what exactly are the differences between the plague babies and the fat babies? What are the hives like, versus the hells? It's pretty underdeveloped, and I just need to understand more!! The novella also ends abruptly, with some mysteries still unclear, but I've heard there's going to be a sequel so hopefully that'll clear things up.

3.5 stars.
6,286 reviews67 followers
February 7, 2020
This was so bad!!! Everything about it was failed in my opinion. The characters were not interesting. The story just focus on every aspects that aren't good or interesting and skip really fast what could have been fun. The third of the book is about how the characters are going to get the money for there «expedition» speaking to banker and selling their pitch... who would enjoy reading that. I had the impression of reading about negotiating my mortgage. There is so many loose ends and plot holes and tagging has a time travel novel is truly just a joke. I kept reading expecting something to happen like I didn't believe that it was going to be that all along, but yeah it was.
Profile Image for Rina.
125 reviews4 followers
April 7, 2018
3 stars- I liked it.

Kelly Robson has created a unique world in Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. The concept, prosthetic limbs help create mutants who travel back in time to an early river civilization, kept my interest throughout this novella. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the world building in this story, I did not find myself too emotionally involved with the characters. With that being said, I think I will read future works by this author.

Recommended for fans of The Chronicles of St Mary's Series by Jodi Taylor
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
1,031 reviews125 followers
July 10, 2018
A fascinating world and complex characters whose interactions with it are thoughtfully presented. However, I can't help thinking it's half a book and not all of it; the repercussions and some of the elements of the story never quite play out. I guess some of it is the thematic point of the story, but if that's so, I wish the build-up to the anti-climactic end had been more decisive.

Robson is very talented and this might just be a personal preference (and the comparison to Connie Willis's time travel stories). I do look forward to whatever she writes next.
Profile Image for Lucille.
1,082 reviews209 followers
January 24, 2018
This was very good!!
I'll write a longer review to explain why closer to release date!

A note:
- a character is asexual, with the word being used!
- but the way the text references it later on gives the wrong idea: being asexual does not mean not being interested in romance, asexuality and aromanticism aren't the same thing
Profile Image for T.
10 reviews4 followers
January 30, 2021
I had such high hopes for this novella. In the beginning, it seemed like it would deliver on all the promises of Solar Punk: A compelling post-apocalyptic study in resilience, in what glitters amongst the scourges of plagues and environmental collapse. Foregrounding bold disabled, fat positive, queer, and BIPOC rep, I was excited by the cast and interested in their world of Hells and Banks.

Unfortunately, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach failed to deliver on almost every count. World building was focused myopically on ecosystems instead of societies and storytelling so I never really understood the differences between Calgary and Iceland, or what goes on in any of the Hells. The conflict between plague babies and fat babies could have been immensely interesting social commentary, but was instead haphazardly alluded to while tiresome space was dedicated to the procurement of water samples. It was evident that creative technologies existed and were central to the story, but readers were left to piece together what those were. The power of banks was overstated but never shown. Overall, I could never really grasp the world being built and was frustrated by the pages dedicated to ecological sampling instead.

The characters also disappointed me. There was precious little character development, and the development that did occur was achingly slow. Actions that should have had consequences, like Minh continue to abuse her endocrine system in spite of permanent disability and Habim asking her not to, simply didn’t. The bulk of the dialogue was petty arguments between the crew that contributed little to the plot or world. Tensions between the fat babies and the plague babies were potentially interesting but left mostly to interpretation, and it’s inconsistent that Habim was uninvolved.

As for rep: Disability wasn’t a believable aspect of two MC’s lives in spite of one being a new amputee and the other facing endocrine failure from a lifetime of abuse, and using her prosthesis mostly as toys and grappling hooks. The plague that contributed to the disability rep and overarching Solar Punk theme received mere sentences of attention and never fit into the plot, its world, or any of the characters who survived it and were trying to build hope beyond it. The only queer rep to speak of is one sentence that mentions one characters asexuality and speculates that they’d be willing to trade sex for a job. To say that I’m repulsed is putting it lightly. Even the fat representation ends in body modification to make the body smaller.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach was an overwhelmingly disappointing, representatively disgusting, stylistically negligible Solar Punk hopeful that failed in its fantastic potential. Beyond being poorly written, it reinforces myths about the subhuman and primitive BIPOC “Other” through its time travel and discourse on who counts as a meaningful human. It recycles the exhausted acephobic bet on what compromises one would make against their sexuality to get ahead. It abuses and mutilates disabled and fat bodies. Never once delivering on all the plot potentials of revolting against capitalism, world building with multiple hells and obvious histories, and baiting queer SFF readers. I don’t recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 7 books173 followers
November 12, 2019
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is not a simple story. There is nothing subtle and simple about a middle-aged scientist with prosthesis octopus-like legs, time travel, ecological restoration, and culture dynamics. Nor is there anything subtle about a world in recovery that has been racked by climate change, species die off, and plague. The world Minh lives in is one that is complicated and nursing its wounds and trying to move on. It sounds like it is a depressing story full of tropes, coming off as a typical apocalyptic novel. But in Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, it isn't like that. If anything, Robson has created a world that is recovering and in a lot of ways excelling. We are past the struggle for resources usually associated with apocalyptic novels. The descriptions of technology and how it is intertwined with life are marvelous, but humanity has changed past that. To me, there seemed to be an undercurrent of depression among the plague-babies (those that survived the plague), Minh's generation. This is in stark contrast to Kiki's generation, the fat-babies. The characterizations between the two cultures is relevant and interesting.

The story is told in three parts. The first, and most lengthy is setting up the world building and Minh's life as a world-class ecologist. Her job is to go out and do reclamation on natural habitats in an attempt to find balance again with nature. We meet Kiki, an administrator, and fat-baby - tall, healthy, and robust in personality. All she wants is Minh's approval and friendship. She goes out of her way to put herself in Minh's life, almost to an uncomfortable degree. Minh is a cantankerous older woman. Set in her ways and uncomfortable with how forthright Kiki is. A new proposal for a time travel project to ancient Mesopotamia has come up, a proposal that Minh wants badly. Kiki and Minh work to land the bid and enlarge her team with the addition of Hamid. He falls in the middle, personality-wise. The second part of the story is the actual expedition and ecological restoration work. It is fascinating how Robson handles this. She creates a stark dichotomy between the technology of the Lucky Peach(their ship) and ancient Mesopotamia. The third part of the story is what happens after the intial part of the cataloging is done, where cultures clash.

Robson has meticulously constructed a story that is rich and nuanced. Areas that are "old-hat" in science fiction, i.e., time travel, seem restrained and exciting instead of worn out. It is a rigorous story that asks a lot of the audience. Character dynamics, the heart of the story, are done in a way that you empathize with all sides involved. It is obvious why Robson won many awards for this story. This story cements her as a science fiction powerhouse and one to watch in the coming years.

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